Ali was called up to the main roster towards the end of 2018 for a match with the then-WWE Champion Daniel Bryan. The match got Ali over as one of the biggest babyfaces on the blue brand, and the next week he was announced as a full-time member of the Smackdown roster.
However, the former 205 Live star has revealed while talking to TalkSport that he was only supposed to work with Daniel Bryan on the December 11th episode of Smackdown as a one-off, before returning to 205 Live the following week. He even recalls being specifically told by a backstage official not to get his hopes up as there were no plans to move him over to Smackdown permanently.
“The way it went down was I showed up to TV one day and was told ‘Hey, don’t get your hopes up, it’s a one time deal, but you’re working Daniel Bryan on SmackDown. It’s just to highlight you and the 205 Live division, it’s a one-time deal. It’s an opportunity, but don’t get any ideas! You’re not getting moved to SmackDown”
However, Ali recalled the positive reaction he received backstage after his first match with Bryan, and revealed that he was then told the following week that despite being initially told not to get this hopes up, he would be leaving 205 Live and moving to Smackdown on a full-time basis:
“So we went out there and had this once in a lifetime – I thought – match with Daniel Bryan and I came back, it was a positive reception and what not, but it wasn’t until the following week till I came back to TV that I was told ‘Hey, we’ve made the decision to move you over to SmackDown, you’re going to be a full-time member and you’re in the main event of the night,’ so it was a lot to take in in two weeks. Thinking that you kind of have this opportunity to show people what you’re made of, to ‘OK, not only do we want to see what you’re capable of but we’re also putting you in the mix.'”
Ali, who is set to feature in the men’s Money In The Bank ladder match at the pay-per-view on May 19th, revealed the person he believes is the reason he is on the main roster as a full-time member, but said he would never know the full story:
“I’ll never know the full story because Daniel is not the type of guy that would put his hat on anything… As far as Daniel’s involvement in it, I’ve heard a bunch of different stories, but I refuse to believe anything other than Bryan saw I was capable of doing or he wanted to give back because Bryan himself is a guy who struggled at cruiserweight just like we did,” Ali continued. “You know, smaller guys, work-rate guys, guys that might not get the best story or chance to show personality and he saw whatever he saw and I was fortunate enough to work him. I would directly say if Daniel Bryan wasn’t involved I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now.”
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